25 Things I’m Thankful for in 2012

With 2012 winding down I have been taking a look back on the year and I have realized I really do have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve had some great experiences, met some amazing people and even learned a few things. Looking back there are some things and people that made my year pretty awesome. So here is my list of 25 things I’m thankful for in 2012 in no particular order.

1. Family – Sometimes you don’t realize how important family is till you need them and my family has always supported me in what I’ve done.

2. WordPress – All of my websites are based on WordPress. Since I really do not code that much wordpress makes it much easier to setup a website or even a business in less than an hour!

3. Nik – My friend Nik and I have been hanging out a lot lately. He is a great person to bounce ideas off of and he has been reviewing gaming peripherals for ThinkComputers this year. People really enjoy his take on gaming accessories.

4. Instagram – Before there was instagram I had to post photos on twitter and facebook separately and that was just annoying. Instagram makes things so much easier and is an awesome app. I know all of you love my #foodporn photos!

5. The ThinkComputers Community – I really made an effort this year to build a community around ThinkComputers. Whether it was on twitter, facebook, youtube or even on the ThinkComputers Forums. I want to thank everyone that has become part of the ThinkComputers community.

6. StartUpTown – I spent a good amount of time at StartUpTown this year. It is a great place to work from and the people there are just awesome.

7. Spotify – All the music I want anywhere? Since Spotify launched in the US I have been hooked!

8. Haeley, Katie, Kimmi – These girls have simply been awesome. We all have become so close over this past year and we always have so much fun together!

9. Mailchimp – I finally moved away from dadamail and signed up for Mailchimp. It is a great way to manage an e-mail list / newsletter and has just made things so much easier for me.

10. Adam Werkmeister – My buddy Adam was nice enough to invite me to go on vacation with him this past year. The vacation was just what I needed and was the perfect motivation to finish out the year strong.

11. Payday The Heist – If there was one video game I played the most this year it had to be Payday The Heist. It is a blast I mean what can’t you like about robbing banks?

12. Schenley Park – I love living right by Schenley Park. Whether it is to exercise or just go for a walk its a great place to go and get my mind off work.

13. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy – This has to be my favorite beer. It is the perfect summer beer and I order it pretty much everywhere I go during the summer!

14. Travel Blogs – After my vacation I really got into travel blogs, more specifically digital nomad blogs. Some of the ones I really enjoy are: Making It Anywhere, Location 180, Never-Ending Footsteps, & Legal Nomads.

15. Audio Books – Another thing I discovered on vacation was audio books. I think this is the best way to digest information and “read” a book. Nothing is more relaxing than sitting on a beach and listening to an audio book.

16. HootSuite – If you manage more than one social media profile Hootsuite is what you need to be using! It is completely web-based and you can manage Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Linkedin profiles. The best feature is the ability to schedule posts.

17. Nakama – You will normally find me here on Monday nights having a late dinner with friends. Amazing sushi and great bartenders, if you want good Japanese food in Pittsburgh this is where you need to go.

18. John Chow – One of my good friends and someone I can always count on for business advice.

19. Pho – Simply one of my favorite foods. Nothing is better than a nice large bowl of warm pho! If im not feeling well or just want to feel refreshed pho is the perfect thing!

20. ThemeForest & VideoHive – I am in no way a designer, actually I’m horrible at those things. ThemeForest is a great place to find quality wordpress / website themes. VideoHive is just like the same thing, but for video. That is where I got the intro for ThinkComputers videos.

21. Google Docs – I’m not sure how I survived before without Google Docs. Whether I am writing something, or using the form function for a contest Google Docs is awesome. Oh yeah and you can access all of your files anywhere there is an internet connection.

22. Panera Bread – There are really not a whole lot of places in Pittsburgh where you can get good food and work on your laptop for an afternoon. Panera Bread is normally the place I go when I need to get out of my home office and work.

23. Dropbox – Dropbox is the easiest way to share files. I use it for both personal and business applications and I love that I can access my important files wherever there is an internet connection.

24. My Health – While I am not in the best shape of my life, things could be a lot worse. Being healthy is something many people take for granted so I am happy that I am healthy.

25. Great Friends & Good Times – At the end of a long work day nothing is better than going out and spending time with friends. It just allows you to forget about all the stress of work. To all of my friends thanks for being so awesome in 2012!

I could add much more to this list, but I don’t want to go on and on. What were you thankful for in 2012?

Where Did November Go?

Seriously is it already December? Only 1 blog post last month…I am definitely not that happy about that. So what’s the deal? Well to put it simply I have been overworked, stressed and just plain busy. Although I cannot make excuses, I haven’t been working as smart and effective as I should be either.

First off this is the busy time of the year for ThinkComputers. Companies are releasing products for the holiday season so we have a lot of products in to review. I am still doing 95% of the reviews on ThinkComputers, sometimes I think I will never find enough good and reliable staff members to really contribute so I don’t have to write 3-4 reviews a week myself. So between writing the reviews, doing the unboxing videos and doing pretty much everything else for the site I am pretty busy.

Talking about writing I am having a hard time really concentrating. It’s amazing when I am in the zone and I can pump out reviews one after another. I’m not sure if I need a change on scenery or what, but this is not a good thing. I think with everything going on I am just stressing too much and I can’t really relax to get into that writing mood.

Another thing with concentrating is that I am not being effective at all. Many days I have not been making a to-do list so I sit at my computer and complete easy tasks that really are not that important. I should be getting the high priority tasks done, but I am guilty of being lazy. I really need to stick to a firm schedule and stop being lazy.

For a good while now I was doing really good. I would be pretty productive during the day and before I would go to bed I would sit on my laptop and read travel blogs, sort of like my sanctuary. I could forget about work and think about traveling to Thailand or somewhere else. Now by the end of the day I am just exhausted and want to pass out.

So why am I telling you this? Well one I knew I needed to write a blog post and two I think it is good to write about it. That way I am able to define the problem and solve it. Also I wanted to give everyone a little update, hopefully you won’t have to wait another month for another one!

So You Think it is Easy to Run an Online Business?

It’s crazy to think I have been running ThinkComputers for 10 years, but I have.  Over this time many people have said to me, “man your job must be easy”.  At the same time just as many people have said, “I wish I could do what you do”.  The truth is anyone can do what I do, but they make the mistake of thinking that it is easy and that it is not a real “job”.  I have given so many people advice and more or less a blueprint to do exactly what I do, yet they give up because they realize it is not as easy as they think and it actually requires real work.  Keep in mind I never decided to make ThinkComputers my full time job because I thought it would be easy.  I did it because I wanted to do my own thing and hey it’s nice to work in your boxers!  So if you are thinking about starting your own online business here are some things you may want to consider.

You are your own boss
This seems like a great thing right?  No one telling you what to do, being able to make your own schedule etc.  The thing you don’t realize is being your own boss is a hard thing to do from time to time.  Because technically no one is holding you accountable.  So if you sleep in, don’t work for a day, sit and watch YouTube for hours etc you cannot get in trouble as you are the boss.  This makes it very easy to be lazy.  I try to wake up at the same time each day, but when you technically don’t have to be up for anything it is really hard to drag yourself out of bed.  Being your own boss also means you need to have your day planned out with tasks.  If you do not you will just sit around and become “busy” but not productive.  These are just a few things that are not that great about being your own boss, the list can go on and on.

Working for Free
Wait what?  When you are building website or product you are technically working for free.  No one is paying you to develop the product or website.  If you are selling a product you are only going to get paid when you get orders.  When it comes to websites and ads for the most part unless you already have a website that has good traffic and a following no one is going to pay you upfront for advertising.  You will have to go with a 3rd party service like Google Adsense, which means you will not get paid for at least a month if not more.  Google Adsense like many advertising services require you to have a minimum balance (usually $100) before they will cut you a check.  So you will need to wait until you reach that amount.  To make matters worse a lot of advertising companies work on anywhere from a 30 to 60 day net payment.  That means if I made $500 in November I will not see that money for 30 to 60 days (whatever the net payment is) starting from December 1st.  This means you really have to manage your cash flow.  It can be annoying because if you have an awesome month it’s not like you can go celebrate because you don’t see that money for at least a month if not more!

Unsure of Income
One of the most stressful things about doing what I do is not knowing how much money I will be making each month.  When you are working for a company you normally know how much your check will be on the 15th and 30th.  If you are selling a product online you have no clue how many orders you will be getting each month.  If you rely on advertising then unless you are charging a flat rate you have no clue how much you will make.  That all depends on traffic, how many people click the ad etc.  If your site goes down in the middle of the night and ads do not display you are technically losing money, which you will definitely notice at the end of the month.

Always something to do
If you happen to follow me on twitter you may have seen me post the hashtag #nodaysoff, because in this business there really are no days off.  Well I mean there are, but there is always something you can be doing.  People think its crazy that I work on my birthday, on holidays and even on vacation, but I’ve done it all.  Whether its doing website optimizations to make your site load faster, finishing up an article, sending an e-mail to a potential advertiser or finishing odds and end on my birthday so I only have to work 2 hours the next day its all work that needs to be done.  Your website and online business is something that you will always be improving so if you want it to last there is always work to be done at all times.  Now just because you can work does not mean you should work, but that whole concept is for a future post.

These are just a few reasons why running your own online business is not easy and can be extremely stressful.  Does this make you want to change your mind about starting your own online business?  I really hope not.  The decision to run ThinkComputers full time has been one of the best decisions of my life.  When I see 80% of my friends who hate their job and are stuck in an office from 9-5 I know that I have made the right decision.

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How To Get All Your Work Done In 2 Hours A Day

Most people think of work as an all day affair. That is what we are programmed to think and what most people do. They go to work in the morning, work all day and come home in the evening. The question you have to ask yourself is how much of that work day is actually spent doing real work? So many people I know complain at how boring their jobs are and how they sit on Facebook all day so I assume most people who work 8 hours a day or not “working” for that full 8 hours.

I happen to be lucky enough that I can pretty much set my own schedule and work when I want, but at the end of the day work needs to get done. For years my work day would last all day and sometimes it seemed like there was not enough hours in the day to get my work done! Working like this is one not productive and two can really stress you out! I know this because I have burnt out many times over the years.

Last month when I went to Hilton Head for a week I was able to get all my work done in 2 hours. How is this possible? I was just as surprised as you that I was able to do this! After coming back I examined how I did it and have come up with the pretty solid set of rules on how you can achieve the same thing no matter where you are or what your job is.

Make a to-do List
Planning should be a very important part of your work day. The night before each work day make your to-do list for the next day. This way you don’t have to waste the time making a list in the morning when you wake up or when you get to work. When making a to-do list it should include the most critical work items, it should not be longer than 10 items. It is it longer than that you are adding non-important tasks.

Complete the Most Critical and Hardest Thing on your to-do List
Take a look at the to-do list you have made. Identify the most critical item on that list. 9 times of 10 it is also the hardest thing to do on that list. Make sure that task is the first thing you complete on your to-do list. I have always been a procrastinator, but once I had that hard task out of the way all of the other tasks for the day seemed trivial compared to it. It is extremely important that you do this, because if you leave the last thing to the end of the day your quality of work towards that task is not going to be as good…believe me I know.

Eliminate Distractions
One of the biggest things that can kill your productivity are distractions. You know that hour long phone call that you knew you shouldn’t have answered, that YouTube video someone just sent your and of course Facebook. I could go on and on about how you can eliminate these distractions, but that is an entire post in itself. The biggest thing is close off those distractions. Do NOT have Facebook or Twitter open all day. Check e-mail twice a day and that is it! Put your phone in the other room, turn it on silent or turn it off completely. With all of these things you are not going to miss anything believe me, they are just distractions to your work. And once you are done with your work you can catch up on Facebook and Twitter and check your phone for missed calls or messages.

Have Something to Work Towards
When I was on vacation my biggest motivation to get my work done was that after I was done with work I could go hang out on the beach, explore the island or go on some other type of adventure. Obviously most of us do not have that luxury, but we can still look forward to many things once we are done with our work. You could see some of the fun things that there are to do in your area and actually go do them, set a night each week to go out with friends, or join a fitness class. There are many different options, but having something to look forward to after work definitely helps you get your work done as quick as possible.

This set of 4 rules should really help you cut down the hours you are actually working, maybe not to 2 hours, but I know that using this system I have been able to basically cut my work day in half and many days down to 2 hours! There are many other things you can do to really cut your work down like outsourcing, but that is for another post. Imagine what you could accomplish if you were able to cut the hours you are working in half! Try this system and I am sure you will have success!

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Turning my Desk into a Standing Desk!

As I’ve gotten older it seems I have been exercising and working out less and less. This is never good and teamed with sitting down most of the day as I work it is definitely not a good thing. It seemed I was getting more and more tired every day, and half-way through the day I would just crash. This of course would effect my productivity and quality of work so I decided to do some research.

After seeing this infographic, reading this article and a few others just like it I found that one of the problems could be that I sit most of the day. So I went looking for standing desks. To my surprise they were very expensive and not something that I really could see in my office. I first decided to prop my keyboard, mouse, and displays up and stand in front of them. This did work, but was not very comfortable and my desk looked like a mess!

I eventually took the props down and was back to sitting. I knew if I actually was able to raise my desk I could stick with it and actually have a real standing desk. I talked to my dad about it and he made me 3 wood blocks that I could set my desk up on.

So far I’ve had my desk like this for 2 weeks and I don’t feel like changing it anytime soon. Having this higher desk means that I am standing most of the time and when I am not I do have a stool, but I try and not use it when I don’t really have to. Having my desk up higher it seems I tend to keep it cleaner and I have more room under it for things. One thing I would suggest if you do want to move to a standing desk is that you get a floor mat for your feet, standing on a hardwood floor all day is not fun!